This stuff may not be as exciting as hitting your favourite jump over and over — but if you want to improve as a rider, individual skills are a quick way to do it.
STORY SHANE BOOTH PHOTOGRAPHY MATT BERNARD
If you think about all the individual skills required to ride a dirtbike fast for one lap of a motocross track, you’ll be counting way beyond your fingers and toes. Identify those individual skills then focus on them for specific sessions and you’ll start to improve rapidly. Once your skill level rises and you can perform the techniques to a higher level, you’ll become a better rider — and you will go faster.
Improving your skill level when it comes to using the brakes will not only allow you to go faster but will probably mean less time on the ground, too. It’s no secret that if you’re not too good with your front brake it will probably catch you out at least once every ride. Spend some time working on your front brake feel and you can change that. Here are a couple of exercises to start with:
LEVEL 1: STOP & GO
Stay sitting for this. Select first gear and ride off until you’re at a steady speed. Pull the clutch in and use the front brake only to stop the bike. Remember when using the front brake that it should just be a progressive squeeze of the lever; don’t grab at it. Repeat this exercise and, as you gain confidence in the front brake, start to squeeze it a little harder and faster each time. You don’t need to ride any faster; the only change is your application of the front brake. When you feel comfortable that you know what’s going to happen every time you squeeze the front brake, you’re ready for level two.
LEVEL 2: ENDO
This is just an extension of level one. As your confidence grows and you start to squeeze the front brake harder and faster, the bike will start to stop quicker. When this happens, you will find the forks diving further and eventually you will pick the rear wheel up off the ground. If the rear wheel feels like it’s coming up too quickly and may go all the way over, release the front brake. It’s important to remember you don’t need to go faster to get the rear wheel off the ground — it’s all in the brake application, not how fast you’re going.
LEVEL 3: STOPPIE
Make sure you’re comfortable with the rear wheel being in the air before you move to this front brake exercise. What you’re aiming to do here is actually roll along on the front wheel with the rear wheel in the air. You’ll need a little more speed for this one but you can still begin in first gear. Give it a little squirt of throttle to get moving; then you’ll need a fairly aggressive squeeze initially to get the rear wheel off the ground. Once it’s in the air, you need to adjust your brake pressure to keep the rear wheel from dropping to the ground. If the rear wheel is dropping, add a little pressure to the lever; if the rear wheel is rising too quickly, release a little.